Shuang Liang: Bridging the International Gap for Peer Mental Health Services
Senior Shuang Liang, second from right, sits with fellow student E-Board members of the Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program.
ALBANY, N.Y. (May 16, 2012) — Arriving at the University at Albany in 2010 as an international student from China, Shuang Liang was hugely impressed by UAlbany's Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program. Little did she know how her involvement in the group would impact her college life—and life in China.
Middle Earth offers students a broad range of psychological services including counseling, prevention, and health promotion. Its culturally inclusive and accessible services are tailored to meet the evolving needs of the University’s diverse community and helped Shuang feel at home.
As a psychology student at East China Normal University in Shanghai, Shuang found Middle Earth’s concentration on mental health issues a natural fit. After only a year as a Middle Earth peer educator, she was named the program’s vice president. In this role, Shuang became the driving force that brought an eleven-member delegation from Peking University to observe peer education at the University. This was a critical step toward improving the mental health services for students in her home country.
“Whether it’s been in University-wide projects, presidential committees, as a peer educator or a chief presenter of programs, Shuang has been one of the most thoughtful and courageous student leaders Middle Earth has ever had,” said Dolores Cimini, the program’s director.
By 2011-12, she was leading prevention programs for both the general student population and international students. However, her biggest coup came from her desire to bring the principles and practices of Middle Earth to her home country. Through Ruiyuan Guan, a visiting professor at UAlbany from Peking University, she secured the visit from that university’s delegation in March 2012.
“They were very interested in Middle Earth’s methods,” said Shuang. “Such peer education programs that do exist in Chinese universities are not so developed, but we showed how they could be adapted to what we do here at this university.”